Wednesday, February 9, 2011

True Grit, 1969 (Grade D)

Director: Henry Hathaway
Any Awards? Academy Award for Best Actor & for music
Cast: John Wayne; Glen Campbell, Jeremy Slate; Robert Duvall; Kim Darby

plot: down in the heels lawman, Reuben 'Rooster' Cogburn (John Wayne) reluctantly helps teenage girl Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) pursue her father's killer. 

sez says: I may have to stand alone in the world on this--but I think John Wanye was a terrible actor...and that this was a pathetic movie. He got an award for this just because he was never given an award (you generally don't get them when you are a hack)  but he had been around a long time and I guess they all felt sorry for him. Plus, here, he plays a bit of a drunk--who can still handle a gun.  The only actor in this movie worth beans is Duvall. Go see the Coen's version of this same story and you'll see immediately it is not the fault of the story--it is the interpretation--a John Wayne interpretation-- that is the drag.

mjc says: if this is John Waye's best then he is worse than I thought and Kim Darcy, wearing 1960's style clothes just didn't cut it

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Law, 1960 (Grade A-)

Director: Jules Dassin
Awards: None we know of
Cast: Gina Lollobrigida; Pierre Brasseur; Marcello Mastroianni; Melina Mercouri; Yves Montand; Raf Mattioli; Vittorio Caprioli; Lidia Alfonsi

plot: Gina Lollobrigida smoulders as Marietta, the most attractive woman in town. Every man wants her, but she only has eyes for Enrico (Marcello Mastroianni), a young, handsome engineer whose lack of connections and poverty prevents him from marrying her. The tensions steadily build and threaten to explode in a town where "the law" is a cruel game played by men ruled by their desires.

sez says:  Dassin was blacklisted in the US during the McCarthy era. He went to Europe and continued his career there. He was a man interested in story -- and  it is no surprise he was attracted to this story.  Competition over a woman can lead men to act in unseemly ways..and that is part of this story.. But a larger part has to do with dominance: who will rule whom. Who deserves to rule.  This is a universal theme -- and there are no heroes. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Fair Lady, 1964 (Grade A)

Director: George Cukor
Awards -- Lots and Lots--ran aways with the Academy awards, got Golden Globes, and Bafta awards, and is in at least 2 of AFI Best 100 lists.
Cast:  Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison. Stanley Holloway, Wilfred Hyde-White, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett, Theodore Bikel, Mona Washbourne, Isobel Elsom, John Holland, Alan Napier, Marni Nixon

sez says: I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie after all these years! We decided to watch this because we had just viewed the 1930s version (titled Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw's original title). We wanted to look at IF and HOW the story might have been changed from 1930 to 1960.   Well much to our surprise, much of the script is verbatim. (Shaw himself did the screenplay for the 1930's version).  And while  My Fair Lady is punctuated with Lerner and Loew Show Tunes (many of which are very clever songs) the music did not alter, in any substantial way, the core story.  There is less talk in the this 1960s version about the evils of middle class morality--and the final conversation between Higgins and Dolittle --where Higgins denounces marriage--is cut from the 1960s version.  The race track replaces mothers house for Eliza's first outing...and what a grand job is done of that bit of the movie, where the upper class presnets itself as a bland, emotionless bunch. The sexism in the lyrics of some of the songs is tempered by it being tongue-in-cheek "Why Can't a Woman Be Like A Man" etc.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Man For All Seasons, 1966 (Grade D)

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Awards: lots and lots
Cast: Paul Scofield; Wendy Hiller; Robert Shaw; Orson Wells; Susannah York; John Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave.

STORY PLOT: Sir Thomas More is not able to approve the marriage of Henry the 8th to Anne Boylen --and his life hangs in the breech if he does not make a public statement of his support.

sez say:  Thomas More was a religious fanatic--and it is hard to tell that from this movie.. He over saw burning-at-the-stake of men whom he considered heretics --ie men who criticized Rome.  That seems to me to be a bad thing to do--but it was part of the same dedication that led him to be unable to approve the king's marriage.  

This movie tries to make him into a principled man who can not go against his conscience and who stands his ground no matter the cost.  That was no doubt a message the US was hankering for as we went deeper in the Viet Nam War and a few brave people stood against that disastrous foreign policy. But Thomas More was much more complicated than this story says--just like any person is, who is willing to risk his or her life, in order to defend an ideal.  Do we approve a person's giving no thought to the impact their actions have on their family?  How often is a person so purely and absolutely right  that there is no possibility they could be wrong?  Clearly Thomas More was a fanatic -- and how often, really, is the voice of a fanatic a voice to listen too?  Sometime, yes, but not often...and if you look at the real Thomas More I don't think you'd find him nearly so heroic.  So this is a fairy tale--and maybe a dangerous one.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

La Dolce Vita, 1960 (Grade A)

Director Federico Fellini
Awards: Academy Award Nominations --and one win for costumes, plus BAFTA nomination
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni; ANita Ekberg; Anouk Aimee; Yvonne Furneaux; Magali; Alain Cuny; Annibale Ninchi; Walter Santesso

story line:  a meditation on the meaning of life and love, staring Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello, a gossip writer who seeks the fleeting excesses and decadence of life and sex.

sez says: It is Post WW2 Italy and, while prosperity is beginning to return, people no longer are sure what is important.    Our hero/Marcello is on the cutting edge of fashionable culture and he won't give up the new  'freedom' (mostly sexual) that he has discovered. Meanwhile there is a woman/his regular girlfriend who loves him and who represents a more traditional life. She tried to commit suicide -- he doesn't want her to die (ie: he is unsure if he really wants to break with tradition.  But he in incapable of turning away from the lure of the fast lane. At one point he actually tells one rich-avant-garde woman that he will settle down for her..but she rejects the offer, saying all is only for the moment. In the end he is not looking too happy to me. But in the meantime there is fashion galore, stylish settings; amazing characters; style style style.  The current film NINE seems to be about Fellini's lfe --and is worth seeing in conjunction with this.  Certainly a movie to be seen.  Grade A

Sunday, July 4, 2010

In Cold Blood, 1967 (Grade A-)

Director: Richard Brooks
Awards: nominated for lots of Academy Awards (didn't win) and for a Golden Globe (didn't win) but is now on AFI list of best 100 films
Cast: Robert Blake; Scott Wilson; John Forsythe; Paul Stewart; Gerald S O'Loughlon; WIll Geer; Jeff Corey; John Gallaudet; James Flavin; Charles McGraw

sez says: this is a compelling story --and this film is a well done telling of that story. The conclusion, that the two men, when together, formed a third person capable of doing what neither of them could have/ or would have done alone, gives you pause to think.  Alienation, arrogance, looking for a magic bullet, having a weak moral center all seem like components that might be considered when asking why would these men have slaughtered a family that they didn't know.  And the story seemed to be a little more sympathetic toward one of the killers and I am not sure why.  But all in all it will get your attention and hold it. It might not be perfect but it is mighty good, (Grade A-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Le Samourai, 1967 (Grade D)

DIRECTOR:Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring: Alain Delon

sez says: This was described as a French Masterpiece / early New Wave /  mystery thriller.  That sounded great.  Well--the best thing about the film is the set --and especially the old telephones. (There is a red and white telephone, sitting on the policeman's desk, that I'd be every-so happy to get my hand on. And there are others too, so if you watch this film, look for the phones. They are fun.)  But that is an aside. There is minimal dialogue..and our 'anti-hero' goes around being ever so cool.  He is a hired killer--who we are suppose to be --what? impressed with? He is without affect/emotion. He just wonders up and dow hall ways with an expressionless face, wearing a coat and hat that he really should have dumped. We are told he is VERY SMART--but in fact he really is not even very bright: He can't even figure out that he ought to loose his coat when the police are looking for a man wearing that coat, etc.   The story ends in a very weird way--and by the time we got there and asked "Why did he do that?",   none of of cared enough to spend any real time speculating. We just shrugged and went on to our next movie. GRADE D (the grade could have been lower with out the